Massachusetts is voting this November on whether the recreational use of marijuana by adults over 21 should be legalized. Governor Charlie Baker, Attorney General Maura Healey, and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh have opposed the bill and are working together to convince the public not to vote. The Massachusetts Hospital Association voted last week to join them in opposing the bill after being presented with an opinion piece written by the Governor, Attorney General, and Mayor. Their article states that young people would be more likely to use it, although they presented no facts to prove this and advocates of the bill argue that this is incorrect. What makes this even more frustrating for advocates is the massive amount of money recreational marijuana could bring to the state.
A Potential Misuse of Funds
Jim Borghesani, a spokesman for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol said, “The governor and the attorney general and the Boston mayor wrote an opinion piece that’s predicated on junk science. It’s a shame that any board would follow up with a vote…based on junk science.” Marijuana is decriminalized in Massachusetts for anyone caught with less than an ounce but there is still cause for concern over objection to legalization. Over 1,000 people a year are arrested for having over the one ounce limit on them. A large portion of the funding for the state’s law enforcement and judicial system is being used to arrest and prosecute people with what is regarded in many other states as a petty crime leaving some Massachusetts residents wondering if these state resources could be spent on more important matters.
The Uncertainty of Driving Limits
The main concerns being looked at regarding legalized marijuana involve questioning what the safest legal driving limit should be and how this could be measured. The most up to date studies show that driving high creates a low to moderate risk, between 20-30%. There are driving tests for THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) levels in a person’s blood. In states where marijuana is legal, there are lawful driving limits in place but these can sometimes be hard to measure because THC can stay in a person’s blood stream even after the effects wear off. For this reason, testing can be difficult and it may be left to an officer’s discretion as to whether a person is really over the limit. Another concern is proper labelling for marijuana edibles. In the past it was difficult to get an accurate reading on THC levels due to the sugar, fat, and gelatin levels in edibles hiding traces of THC. However, new advancements in the testing process are underway. Such tests have the potential to ease a lot of fears regarding mislabeling of marijuana products.
Legalized Marijuana Means Big Money for Massachusetts
A study by ArcView Market Research showed the state is predicted to make $300 million by its first year and $1.17 billion by 2020 if it legalized marijuana for recreational purposes this November. Medical marijuana alone is predicted to make $240 million by 2020. The state would be placing a 3.75% sales tax on top of the current 6.25% state sales tax for all marijuana sales.The ballot measure would put in place a Cannabis Control Commission to regulate marijuana stores, growers, and processors. It hasn’t been decided whether home growing would be allowed and senators have suggested putting warning labels on all marijuana products.
Legalized marijuana has brought profits to other states and Massachusetts could be next in line to benefit. The cost of keeping it illegal is high for both the state and those who have been convicted of possession. With the right regulations in place the end of prohibition could create great cause for celebration.